Make Ahead

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

July  4, 2021
4.3 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Olive oil cake at its best has a crackling crust and an aromatic oil-rich middle, which, if it held any more moisture, would be pudding. Pulling this off should be easy—there aren't even egg whites to whip and fold, or butter to cream—but it isn't always. This one, however, is perfect, and will ruin you for all others. Recipe from Maialino Restaurant in New York City, where they also serve it at breakfast in muffin form, and they've been known to turn it into a birthday cake, layered with mascarpone buttercream. The recipe is pictured here with Michelle Polzine's Slow-Roasted Strawberries from Genius Desserts by Kristen Miglore (Ten Speed Press, September 2018). —Genius Recipes

Test Kitchen Notes

Why is this the most beloved Genius dessert of all time? We'll tell you: It's irresistibly moist, rich and flavorful without being cloying, and exceptionally simple. Mix together some wet ingredients in one bowl, dry ingredients in another, tip the combined mixture into a cake pan, and boom. You've got a foolproof, good-no-matter-what cake. No butter softening or egg whipping or mixer wielding necessary. And because of all the moisture in the batter, there's not even the slightest chance of the cake overbaking and drying out.

On the olive oil: Since it's the primary flavor in the cake, use one that you'd be happy featuring in a salad dressing. A fruity type will complement the Grand Marnier and orange zest in the batter, while a peppery, grassy kind will create a wonderful savory contrast. It's really a matter of personal taste.

Of course, because our community loves this cake so much, they've found ways to make it their own: They've swapped out some of the all-purpose flour for almond meal and cornmeal; they've used infused olive oil for an even more pronounced punch of flavor; they've used other liqueurs in place of the Grand Marnier, to give the cake a slightly different personality; they've even added cocoa powder, espresso powder, and matcha powder (separately!) to the batter to give it a whole new groove. Mix-ins, too, aren't part of the original cake's deal, but chopped nuts, chocolate chunks or chips, or freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries would all be spectacular. Choose your own adventure—you can't go wrong any way. —Brinda Ayer
—The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Maialino's Olive Oil Cake
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes a 9-inch round cake
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (350g) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups (285g) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (305g) whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup (60g) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (55g) Grand Marnier
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Oil, butter, or spray a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. (If your cake pan is less than 2 inches deep, divide between 2 pans and start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest and juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jenina G.
    Jenina G.
  • Lisa Milano
    Lisa Milano
  • Cristine
  • Iris Marteja Manlapit
    Iris Marteja Manlapit
  • dilarababy
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

541 Reviews

Jaroslaw99 November 25, 2021
Used 1 cup cultured buttermilk, 1 cup olive oil and 1 cup sugar. Also about 4 Tbsp orange zest. Baked exactly one hour in 10 inch matte gold springform lined with parchment. Came out perfect although the batter seemed thin. Everyone loved how light it was and not too sweet. Roasting strawberries seemed like too much. I took one pound of strawberries, cut in half, added 1/2,cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Simmer to desired consistency.
Jenina G. November 4, 2021
does anyone have thoughts on using Suze as the liqueur in this recipe? Thanks!
Ami November 4, 2021
Why not? I haven’t used suze, but I’ve used rum, cointreau, vermouth, sake, … or none. They all came out delicious!
Jenina G. November 5, 2021
Thanks Ami! Great to see the variety of spirits have all turned out well. I usually use an apple pie moonshine from a local distillery here which turns out very well. I was thinking that because Suze has bitter notes due to the gentian root that maybe it wouldn't jive with the rest of the ingredients but you have given me the incentive to try it out :) Cheers!
tangie1118 August 14, 2021
This was easy and delicious- will be a new go to for Italian dinners. Definitely tastes better the longer it sits (2+ days)
mara September 22, 2021
I completely agree, tastes even better after a day or two!
Lindsay F. June 4, 2021
This cake is a regular in my rotation and everyone I serve it to loves it. I've made one change that I haven't noticed others mentioning so I thought I'd share. I substitute 1 cup of cornmeal (medium or fine ground or a combo of the two) for 1 cup of the flour. It gives the cake a nice texture and makes is perfect as a dessert with fresh berries and unsweetened soft-whipped cream OR as a breakfast or tea time snack. I never refrigerate it and also only cover the cut part with plastic wrap to keep that crunchy top crunchy. I plan to try it as muffins and add some frozen wild blueberries the next time I make it.
mara June 4, 2021
Oh my word... blueberry muffins! That is brilliant!! Please keep us updated on how they turn out!
Naomi May 7, 2021
I'm excited to make this cake but don't have booze in the house other than wine! Is the Grand Marnier critical, or could I substitute with something like orange juice?
maryO May 7, 2021
I’ve never actually added the liqueur, just used OJ -> comes out great. Good luck and enjoy
Ticketytwo May 7, 2021
Not critical
mara May 7, 2021
I usually buy a little nip of Grand Marnier. Works perfectly!
Naomi May 8, 2021
Thanks for the feedback! This was a winner. My spouse begged me to never make another kind of cake again other than maybe chocolate (doesn't understand that trying new things is half the fun!). I used OJ instead of booze, 1 c EVOO (as many suggested), 1 c sugar (might go to 3/4 c next time), buttermilk for the milk. Baked for about 75 min. The top did crack but not a problem for me; the cake rose quite a bit in the oven but then "fell" as soon as I took it out, not sure why or if that matters (again, not really a problem, just curious). I will definitely be making this cake again!
Naomi May 8, 2021
That is a great idea! Next time I go to a liquor store I'm going to stock up on popular baking "minis" :-)
Ticketytwo May 8, 2021
Possibly if you’re baking at sea level. I temp left nyc to live on the beach in the Caribbean last year and I’ve noticed my cakes doing that falling thing. It doesn’t do that in ny. I’ve also made this cake. With orange olive oil, also good
Lisa M. April 5, 2021
So many helpful reviews that I want to add my own. Made for the first time yesterday. I knew I wanted a lemon version, so that's what I did. Used a digital scale to measure the big items: flour, sugar, buttermilk and oil. One cup of EVOO is 130g by the way, as I opted to listen to many reviewers who suggested this amount. I mostly used an EVOO infused with lemon and a little regular EVOO because I didn't want to deplete my entire bottle of lemony oil. I didn't have quite enough monkfruit sweetener for the sugar measurement (looking to reduce sugar intake), so I used a little organic cane sugar to make up the difference but next time I'll use all monkfruit sweetener. Probably shorted the sugar amount by 20g or so. Instead of Gran Marnier, I used Frangelico, and of course swapped OJ for fresh lemon juice and lemon instead of orange zest. Used an 8" springform pan, but did NOT put all the batter in. Probably 2 cups left out and baked the extra in a greased and floured ramekin. Reviewers stated some issue with kosher salt so I measured mine (Morton's) and then crushed it up before adding in. I did separate the eggs and emulsified the oil with the yolks before mixing all the remaining wet ingredients together.

Lastly, I did not scroll through all 500+ reviews to see if anyone had cracked the "crackling crust" code. My cake got quite brown on top and only cracked a little and it took close to 70 minutes for the cake tester to come out nearly clean. After it cooled for 30 minutes, I ran the knife around, removed the sides and then it sat...for a few hours. After dinner when I went to cut it, to my surprise, the top was hard-ish and had that crust I think some are looking for. It won't stay that way once refrigerated though. Suffice it say, I had no issues with the final product; it was cooked through, dense, moist, no over oily issues, no salt issues and tasted HEAVENLY, very lemony (even smelled it while baking). A hit!
Ann April 5, 2021
I’ve made this cake probably 10 times and never refrigerated it. It keeps quite awhile on the counter. I just use a covered cake plate. Maybe you don’t have to lose that incredible crust.
DinghyB February 26, 2021
So, I've had this recipe in my files like forever and I finally got around to making it today. O.M.G! This is a great recipe to work off of and I can't imagine that it's very easy to screw up. I took some tips from some of you previous reviewers, so thanks! I'm sure it made all the difference. As many advised I reduced the olive oil to 1 cup (think I could even go down to 3/4) and the sugar to 1 cup as well. I didn't have grand marnier so I used Cointeau instead and increased the orange zest to 2 Tablespoons. Finally, I switched out half of the flour for whole wheat. We ate it just plain and it is still one of the best cakes I've made. And it was super quick and easy! I'm sure it would be fantastic with berries and whipped cream or maybe a dollop of lemon curd. YUM!!!
Cristine January 30, 2021
Amazing recipe, I reduced the olive oil to one cup, and the sugar to 3/4 cup after reading other reviews. I used buttermilk, and also added fiori di sicilia for an extra citrus depth of flavor. One of the best cakes I have made. Drizzled with some carmel, delicious!
Mary January 31, 2021
I have been tempted to try this recipe again and you have convinced me. I'm going to cut the olive oil to 1 cup but will only cut the sugar by 1/4 cup as the lack of sugar will tend to dry the cake, I believe. Will post my results. Also because of teenagers in the house who love sweet I'm going to try with some raspberries and a bit of raspberry syrup.
Amy January 23, 2021
I made this for the first time today (obv very late to this party). I did not make any adjustments based on reviews because it was my first time, but it definitely needed more than an hour in the oven. I checked at 50 minutes and it still looked very liquidy. Having said that, I baked it in a 9 inch springform pan with parchment on the sides and bottom with cooking spray and foil wrapped over the bottom in case of leakage. It came out beautifully. I used a combination of olive oil from Costco and Orange flavored oil from the farmer's market. I think it bumped up the orange flavor a bit more. I also used 2T orange zest. Next time I will cut back on the sugar a little as others have done. Great cake.
Iris M. January 19, 2021
This was so moist and delicious....paired with homemade ginger ice cream. The salt (Morton's Coarse Kosher) did not dissolve enough so the bottom of the cake was saltier than the rest. Next time, I will add the salt to the wet ingredients to see if it makes a difference.
Mary January 7, 2021
Way too much olive oil. Very wet cake and surprisingly not much flavor.
EC December 25, 2020
I don't know why people say this recipe is great while I made it twice, it failed twice.

The measurements I used were the one in grams, tablespoons and teaspoons were kept as is. I also used celsius to bake the cake.

The first time I followed the recipe exactly. The cake turned out so oily and looked wet- totally unlike the picture where it looks cake-like (and dry but still moist!).

The second time I used less oil (220g) and less sugar (300g). The cake still looked wet, but at least would not release oil when flattened. Still, it was wet and not moist cake-like.

All in all, I really don't understand how people were able to make this recipe - I know I won't try it again.
rk February 13, 2021
Similar issues. Made the cake exactly as stated in the recipe, checked it with a cake tester and it appeared dry and ready at the one hour mark. After 30 minutes of cooling and unmolding, the bottom at the center was raw and liquified. Also tasted very salty at the bottom, and when I tasted the well baked portions, it was unremarkable. I'll stick with Nigella Lawson's Olive Oil Cake made with almond flour.
mara December 24, 2020
I have made this recipe about 6 times now and it has become a family favorite!
I make the recipe as is and frost with mascarpone frosting. BEST CAKE EVER! Not too sweet but positively tasty and moist. Highly recommend!
dilarababy December 11, 2020
I made this with *some* adjustments and it was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!!! I used less olive oil (1 C) and less sugar (1 C). I used a soy “buttermilk” (just put 1 1/4 tbsp lemon juice In a 2 cup measure, add the soy or other nut milk to it until it reaches the 1 1/4 C mark, stir and let sit 5
- 10 min). This was so much richer than the recipe for cake I’ve been using!!!! Wow!!!!
squiddie October 24, 2020
delicious! made with grapefruit juice and cardamom. the 200g olive oil i used left the outer 1/3rd a bit drier than i would like, so i might go for 230g next time. also cut the sugar to 300g and that was a nice balance, though i'm tempted to cut more or experiemnt with sugar substitutes.
Diane October 24, 2020
I always reduce the amount of sugar in a cake recipe and did so in this one, as you did. I love that you used grapefruit juice.
rozina26 November 22, 2020
Sugar is hydrophilic, so reducing it by default will also make your cake less moist, not the lack of oil.
T October 3, 2020
This is delicious, but still quite too moist for my taste even after adjusting oil to 200. Sugar reduced to 150, and it’s just a hint of sweetness - might try 175 next time!
rosecedar September 10, 2020
I've made this twice with delicious results, but I do not get the "crackling crust." Any suggestions?
JHK September 10, 2020
I made this for a small family gathering because I thought it would transport well - it did. I made it the morning of the afternoon meal because I didn't see any reference to preparing in advance. I followed the recipe exactly. I used a 9-inch pan with 1-1/2" sides and filled up the pan short by 1/4" and discarded about 1/2cup batter. The cake did split on top and never achieved a crackling crust as the author noted. But it was moist and dense and oh my, all that orange was devine. I served the cake with slow-roasted strawberries by Michelle Polzine (Genius Recipes). Fabulous combination as far as I'm concerned. Everyone enjoyed it and I will make again.
rosecedar September 8, 2020
Has anyone made this in a 10-cup bundt pan? I love this cake but I would like an option for a prettier presentation. I worry about it sticking to a bundt pan since there is so much oil in the batter.
Maggie E. October 31, 2020
I’ve made in a 10 C bundt Pan for that exact same reason. Just make sure you grease and then flour the bundt Pan extremely well, tapping out any excess flour. It should come out beautifully. I hope this helps.
Diane September 7, 2020
I made this prior to the pandemic for a big gathering. It was so popular. One gentleman had several pieces and asked if he could take a piece home with him! The orange zest is where the magic begins. I will be making this again--and definitely for company. Oh, and I did have to cook it longer than the hour, but that's okay. And I also didn't think it needed any fruit topping - everyone loved the flavour and how moist it was.